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Sitting too much increases cancer risk - research

Sedentary activities are associated with a higher risk of colon, endometrial and lung cancer

Source : Voice of Russia / 17 Jun 2014

Every year scientists add new factors to the list of cancer-triggers – junk food, processed meats, smoking, polluted air. Recently, the list has expanded – sitting or sedentary lifestyle is now linked to a significantly greater risk of certain cancers as well as heart disease and diabetes, new research has revealed.

In a study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, researchers say that people who spend most of the day sitting have up to a 66 percent higher risk of developing certain types of cancer than those who sit less, TIME reports. Study authors Daniela Schmid and Dr. Michael Leitzmann from the University of Regensburg in Germany, said: "sedentariness has a detrimental impact on cancer even among physically active persons, which implies that limiting the time spent sedentary may play an important role in preventing cancer."

A new meta-analysis of 43 different observational studies found that sedentary activities were associated with a higher risk of colon, endometrial and lung cancer, in particular. Sedentary behavior was associated with a 24 percent greater risk of developing colon cancer, a 32 percent higher risk of endometrial cancer, and a 21 percent increased risk of lung cancer.

Each additional two hours on a comfy coach or at an office desk were linked to an increased risk of colon cancer risk by 8 percent, and the risk of endometrial cancer going up by 10 percent. As the researchers studied different types of sedentary habits, they found that watching TV was linked to a 54 percent higher risk of colon cancer and a 66 percent greater risk of endometrial cancer. However, they found no link between sedentary behavior and other types of cancer, including breast and prostate.

The researchers looked at the results that included more than 4 million people and almost 70,000 cases of cancer. The studies assessed how much time the participants spent doing sedentary activities, like watching TV or sitting down, either for work or recreationally, as well as total sitting time. Time spent watching TV appeared to be most strongly associated with bowel and endometrial cancers - possibly because the activity is often accompanied by eating junk food and drinking soda, said the researchers.

The authors said there may be several biological mechanisms that are behind the association between sedentary behavior and cancer, like increased body weight, inflammation and hormonal changes that may promote certain types of cancers.

However, the results go beyond the advice by most health professionals for everyone to become more physically active, as the investigators found that the link between sitting and cancer remained strong no matter how physically active the participants were, TIME says. It means that even people who worked out regularly but spent more hours on the couch still showed higher rates of cancer than those who didn't sit as much, CTV writes.

Dr. Graham Colditz, of Washington University School of Medicine, who wrote an editorial accompanying the study, says the findings highlight the difference between being physically active and being sedentary. It's not enough to just be active—it's also important to sit less. "People are not talking about sitting time in the same way as physical activity," he says. "Guidelines say limit the time spent sitting without drilling into how long or what types of sitting they are talking about."

The difference is important, especially since the latest research suggests that sitting too much may have its own, independent harms on our health. A recent study, for example, found that people who got up and did light to moderate walking after lunch had lower blood sugar levels than people who didn’t get up after eating.

Though trying to sit less is challenging, Colditz says there are ways to be less sedentary, either at home or at the office. His tips are: breaks every couple of hours, quick walks and not eating lunch at your desk.


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